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In the world of computer science, IT, and data analytics, diversity and collaboration are vital while a knack for all things tech will take you far.
Like all tech-driven sectors, the fields of computer science, information technology (IT), and data analytics present their own set of challenges, and require those individuals who choose to take on such challenges to be quick to learn and eager to adapt to a changing landscape.
However, these professions, like other STEM fields, are not immune to the underrepresentation of members of minority communities and diverse cultures in their workforce.
Jimena Almendares, Linda Villafuerte, Joe Aguirre, and Alex Andrade are not only bright minds in the world of IT, but also shining examples of the immeasurable benefits of seeking diverse and talented employees from all walks of life, as diversity of thought, inclusion of ideas, and collaborative efforts drive productivity, evolution, and innovation in the tech world. These talented tech pros also exemplify how a knack for all things tech can take you far in your career.
Almendares Champions Diversity as An Intuit Executive
Since early 2017 Jimena Almendares has been an essential member of the leadership team at Mountain View, CA-headquartered Intuit, where she started as vice president of payments for QuickBooks, and has since worked her way up to her current roles of CEO and president of Intuit Payments Inc., vice president of global expansion for Intuit and head of Intuit’s Latinx network.
Almendares brings with her to the international tax software company a wealth of experience garnered not only from her vast professional background with several large social media and technology companies, but also through her time spent living, working, and studying in a total of 16 countries.
Born in Mexico and having obtained both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in international business from Institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Almendares draws on her skills developed via her experiences in her role as Intuit’s vice president of global expansion.
“I focus on identifying the areas around the globe that could become the next biggest market for Intuit, as well as determining how we can better suit the needs of these communities across the self-employed, small businesses and consumer products,” she explains, adding that she and her team are constantly working to discover new ways to offer accessible solutions and better fit the needs of their user base both within and outside of the U.S.
“To ensure we’re well-equipped to tackle the needs of our users globally, I work to build international teams that bring in unique perspectives and help educate us as a brand. We’re currently focused on our expansion into Mexico, and we’re building a team of new hires-on-the-ground in Mexico, as well as current Intuit employees, which will allow us to expose our current team roster to new outlooks, which will then be brought back to the Intuit campus.”
As a Latina in the technology-focused industry of data and analytics, Almendares recognizes that Hispanic women are grossly underrepresented in fields such as hers. However, she’s optimistic that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) prediction of an increase in the participation of Hispanic women in the workforce will eventually translate into allowing girls and young women of color seeing people like themselves in leadership positions in technology-driven industries.
Almendares does her part to promote diversity and inclusion (D&I) of members of the Hispanic community at Intuit by serving as the executive sponsor for the group Latinos Connect @ Intuit (LCI), an organization comprised of more than 100 members across all of Intuit’s campuses.
“LCI allows for members of the Latinx community to come together and discuss commonalities, plan company-wide initiatives, and promote career and leadership development,” she details.
“This group also serves as a key component for how we teach other Intuit employees about issues and setbacks the Latinx community faces, and that gets incorporated into how we build products and solutions for a wider set of customers.”
When asked about what she enjoys most about her job at Intuit, Almendares is quick to mention the mentorship opportunities available to her, especially within the Latinx community at Intuit, and she holds the chance to expand on her and her team’s horizons via exposure to diversity - something that’s close to her heart.
“Work is no longer work. It’s a continuation of my life - both in what I share with my colleagues and the sense of growth that isn’t something I can accomplish on my own, but is something magical that happens when smart people get together and are fully invested in the customer problem, and the product and company you’re building as a result,” Almendares concludes.
For more information about Intuit, visit careers.intuit.com. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Villafuerte Advances at Arrow Electronics
After 18 years Linda Villafuerte is grateful to Arrow Electronics for fostering her success and growth in the IT field. She currently works as a senior system analyst for the Centennial, CO-based electronics company where she works with a business-to-business development team that specializes in electronic transmissions with suppliers and customers.
“My role includes validating the end-to-end process on all transactions and any additional applications that utilize our information,” she explains, mentioning also that she works alongside the TradeSphere compliance team to validate that Arrow’s orders and shipments abide by the regulations of the U.S., as well as those of any country with which they conduct business.
When Villafuerte started with Arrow, she had only obtained her high school diploma despite possessing extensive IT experience obtained through working for other companies. She eventually obtained her associate degree in computer science, an accomplishment that has furthered her career in IT.
“My manager at the time pushed me to get my college degree, which has absolutely helped me advance. I was a single parent at the time, and Arrow helped me take that leap despite its challenges,” she recalls.
Villafuerte advises anyone who wants to start a career in IT and computer science to obtain a college degree in the field, advising that the career opportunities are endless in the IT field, especially for those who have a higher education degree.
“It’s a tough and demanding industry, but it’s well worth getting into. There are a lot of opportunities to work as a team or individually, and the technology is always changing, which is very rewarding,” she points out.
With a total of more than three decades of experience in the IT profession, Villafuerte has first-hand experience with the changing technology landscape, and knows the value of being able to being able to work together with a diverse team and interact with a wide array of individuals.
“I enjoy the unique opportunity to get different teams and technology to work as one and implementing complex projects. The work I do makes a difference for Arrow, and I take great pride in that,” Villafuerte notes.
For more information about Arrow Electronics, visit arrow.com/en/careers/careers-at-arrow. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Aguirre Keeps Lincoln Financial Secure
With more than 10 years spent with the finance giant, Joe Aguirre is an essential member of Lincoln Financial Group. As assistant vice president of cloud and application assurance, Aguirre plays an integral role in helping Lincoln achieve its mission of empowering its more than 17 million customers to take charge of their financial lives by offering retirement, insurance and wealth protection expertise.
A certified information security systems professional (CISSP), Aguirre brings strong communication, analytical, and technical skills to his role as assistant vice president wherein he’s responsible for overseeing a team that works closely with IT and business partners.
“My team is tasked with ensuring the application and cloud technologies that power our businesses are safe,” he explains. “Protecting our customers’ data and the integrity of our systems is paramount to everything we do.”
It’s this passion for information security, coupled with a fierce love of learning and problem-solving, that has driven Aguirre to success with the Randor, PA-headquartered financial group.
Aguirre recalls developing a fascination for all things technology-related at a young age and realizing quickly the importance of system security after coming across a serious issue in a system on which he was working.
While completing his undergraduate coursework in information assurance and security engineering from DePaul University, he was offered a job with Lincoln where he’s spent the past decade growing his career and even earning a Master of Science in computer information and network security.
Aguirre finds fulfillment in his role at Lincoln Financial Group not only via the complex and challenging nature of the information security field, but also through being a part of an organization that’s committed to empowering its employees to learn and grow.
“At Lincoln employees are empowered to take charge of their careers and develop professionally. Lincoln Financial offers a rich learning experience to its employees that combines different approaches to learning, from live classes to self-paced online training courses,” he notes.
Aguirre takes great pride in Lincoln’s place on Forbes’ 2019 Best Employers for Diversity, as well as its receipt of a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index. Lincoln Financial also offers resources to its employees such as business resource groups, multicultural awareness committees, as well as volunteer and mentorship opportunities.
“I’ve been so lucky to have great mentors throughout my career guiding me to success at Lincoln,” Aguirre shares.
Recognizing that the world is more interconnected than ever, Aguirre is wholly optimistic about the future of information security.
“Everything from your computer to your coffee maker is internet-connected. Securing these complex environments is challenging,” he asserts, adding that identifying and developing talent from diverse communities is critical to filling the current staffing shortages in the IT industry.
“Honestly and continuously assess your skills, and staying current are….both expected and necessary to be successful,” he urges IT professionals. “It’s immediately apparent when someone has passion for their field and takes the time to hone their craft.”
For more information about Lincoln, visit jobs.lincolnfinancial.com. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Glassdoor and LinkedIn.
Andrade Manages Property IT at Progressive
Alex Andrade’s interest in the world of computers began with a summer course he took during high school. It would eventually lead him to a career with Progressive Insurance where he’s now an IT manager with the company’s property IT division. It’s a role he’s held for the past four years.
Andrade began his tenure with Progressive in 2008 as an intern. He credits this internship with introducing him to the Mayfield Village, OH-headquartered company’s mission and values.
“In my internship I had the chance to do meaningful work and could see how the projects I worked on improved processes across the company,” he recalls, mentioning that it was the IT department’s culture of encouragement in the face of challenges that played into his decision to accept a full-time job offer from the company.
In his role as an IT manager, Andrade is responsible for leading his team in Progressive’s efforts in application monitoring and incident management.
“As part of my job, I provide the strategy for tools and implementation to monitor our applications and support our production systems,” he explains, adding that he greatly enjoys the problem-solving and collaboration aspects of being a leader with Progressive’s IT department.
“For the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to manage teams of developers, service desk representatives, system engineers and analysts. I enjoy collaborating with my teams to solve problems for our customers,” he shares.
Andrade also credits Progressive’s mentorship opportunities with connecting him with a broad network of people and experiences from whom and which he’s learned over the course of his 11 years with the insurance company.
He further feels fortunate to be able to work with colleagues from a wide variety of backgrounds to assess and solve real IT problems. “This keeps my job dynamic and interesting,” he adds.
In a field as dynamic as IT, Andrade recognizes the importance of the continuous growth that comes from working alongside talented and diverse individuals, and credits Progressive’s culture of inclusiveness and commitment to diversity with accomplishing this.
“At Progressive employees are valued for who they are, the ideas they bring and the energy they invest. There’s a commitment to diversity and inclusion here, and our culture thrives because of it,” he states.
Andrade has also taken advantage of Progressive’s employee resource groups to connect with other professionals in his field, specifically the company’s Latin American Networking Association, which he led at one point.
Andrade urges IT professionals to constantly evaluate their skills and use the resources available to them to build upon those skills while also staying up on basics, such as coding and programming, explaining that success in the IT field stems from maintaining a strong understanding of how software is built, no matter the programming language used.
“Don’t stop learning at the classroom,” Andrade advises. “You must adapt to new concepts, processes, and technologies to remain relevant and be successful.”
For more information about Progressive, visit progressive.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Glassdoor and LinkedIn.
Tech Pays Off
Occupation 2018 Median Pay
Computer & Information Research Scientists $118,370
Computer Network Architects $109,020
Computer Programmers $84,280
Computer Systems Analysts $88,740
Database Administrators $90,070
Information Security Analysts $98,350
Network & Computer Systems Administrators $82,050
Software Developers $105,590
Web Developers $69,430
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook
Tech Career Stats
Employment of computer and information technology (IT) occupations will grow 13% through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. That translates into about 557,100 new jobs. The median annual wage for these occupations was $86,320 in May 2018, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations ($38,640).
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Software developer is the number-one, in-demand job right along with data scientist.
Sources: U.S. News & World Report and Time
Double-Digit Software Growth
Software job growth through 2026 is expected to rise by 24%, much faster than average.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
U.S. employers posted an estimated 313,735 job openings for cybersecurity workers between September 2017 and August 2018. That’s in addition to the 715,000-plus, currently employed cybersecurity workers and IT professionals heavily focused on security.
Sources: CompTIA, Burning Glass Technologies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and CyberSeek, cyberseek.org/heatmap.html
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